A Site Dedicated to all enthusiasts of Classic Style Banjo
Replying to some comments on a video of mine, I got to thinking. When does "minstrel style" become "classic style"?
Is there a clear border between the two? The obvious answer, in my unknowing mind, would be:
stroke style=minstrel banjo, guitar style=classic banjo
Would that make Briggs song accompaniment from 1855 classic or minstrel banjo? Or both?
I'm ranting a bit here and the thought is so new to myself that I haven't even formed clear questions in my mind.
What's your thoughts on the subject?
Fruit and vegetables grow in dirt. They are fertilized with poo. We harvest the food and eat it and are nourished. We don't eat the poo and dirt. It's pretty simple really.
If we cleanse things, yiddish music, gypsy music, blues, jazz, ragtime, and rock and roll ALL EVAPORATE AND NEVER EXISTED.How can art like this be celebrated if it's creation is tied very very closely to the oppression that inspired it?
Thanks Joel and Jody.
Joel, you reacted to my posts by reading into them what I did not write, and/or perhaps as Jody observed, that I did not write....I did not write it (what Jody refers to) because.....I just didn't think about it while typing.
I was posing a hypothetical logic to try to have some feedback on where the line "should" be drawn for common decency.
As this goes, Jody from your last post, I'll have to think about the fruit and vegetables and poo and dirt metaphor some more for my own thought process.
I realize it's tough to discuss a very difficult topic on a forum with relatively small posts were no one is face to face and things are easily missed in communication.
However, being called an extremist or something like that is absolutely out of context and reactionary to a hypothetical logic situation that I posed for discussion.
I was not espousing a view, but soliciting further input.
The banjo....just the banjo itself...has for many decades been painted with a broad reactionary brush, and I thought this discussion could help sort some of that for me.
I like all of you, but it seems when I post...and not just here...facts or hypothetical situations for further thought and discussion, I get judged very quickly having my words being taken out of the context in which I posed them.
I feel I have a lot to offer, but I don't enjoy being taken this way. I'm a pretty straightforward communicator, but as the internet interpersonal communication paradigm continues, the concept of being taken out of context in a reactionary and outraged way gets more and more common, and I detest the thought process that degrades conversations this way and have no patience for it.
I am not advocating someone corking up in modern times. I was voicing my ongoing concern about cleansing and changing history to fit modern "PC" perspectives. That approach is getting more and more common in modern times and not being clear about what happened in the past and how that affected and evolved into the future present is, in my way of thinking, very dangerous.
I was basically thinking out loud that making burnt cork into anything other than something that is in extremely bad taste....or possibly the next progression of making it illegal or censored or something similar, would be wrong and not productive in solving anything.
This discussion, though more charged in a human relations perspective, reminds me of my last post about the new Clifford Essex banjo and classic banjo voicing and construction, where I pointed out form a factual, experiential, and absolutely documented and with extant examples, how these banjos were designed to sound and perform a certain way. Some thought my insights were productive, but it did cause some surprising (to me) responses, as well as I fear some negative reactions, some of which I think were not posted.
In thinking about this thread from the time of my first post and being off here to think quite a lot about it, which also brought up quite a bit of emotion for me as I thought of my discussions of prejudice over different times as well as the banjo itself that I've had with many of my black friends over the years....some who were personally from Africa working here with me, as well as some professional performers who started in music in the 20's and continued in that pursuit into very recent years, I'm feeling like my presence in this discussion isn't very productive....for reasons beyond the intent of my posts.
Possibly on the forum in general.
But one thing I would like an answer to before I bow out and something that has been on my mind since my last post, is that, how is corking up much different from the mindset of "elevating the banjo".....?
That phrase and ideology/motivation implies/infers a viewpoint, and I'd like to here some thoughts on that.
Thanks for coming back for me, Joel, and I appreciate your thought and posts, Jody.
SOrry, mistaken edit posted as a reply and deleted since it just copied the previous post which I didn't mean to do
Ooo! "Elevating the banjo!!" One of my favorite subjects.
That little bit of SSS advertising copy has been grasped firmly in the grips of academics to the point that it has become more than it really was. Modernish banjo historians have obsessed over that copy to the point where they have twisted it into a mantra of racist appropriation. They would have you think that there was some round table club of wealthy white men putting in a great deal of effort just to remove any association to Black people with banjos.
What academia misses is the commercial side of banjo sales. Or perhaps they are blinded by the idea that commercialism is the very root of evil? I can't say as I am not them.
To frame "the era", it was "all the rage" to be scientific and fancy. It was the age of excess. The Darwin's theory was still topic of discussion or something to have fun with referencing (SSS references it in a few issues of the Journal).
If you compare an 1886 Stewart banjo to a 1870s "tub" (my favorite 19th century derogatory term for early banjos) it is clear that it was a better product. Better materials and features. The user friendly aspect was much higher.
Just take a stroll through the slogans Apple Computers has used-- it is no different.
How is "elevating the banjo" any different than "new and improved" or "better than ever?"
"Elevating the banjo" = "We make better banjos the others did before us". Which is something I believe to be true having held and played many SSS banjos.
I view it as two subjects. There is the advertising used by SSS, and there is the generational changes that I referenced before. Younger generations will make fun of older generation's music and fashion. In turn, older generation's will disapprove of their children's music and fashion (often assigning all sorts of paranoia about the downfall of society that a style of pants of music might cause).
Minstrelsy was a long running theater form, but it each generation lost more interest in it. One can still go to see retro "doo wop" shows to hear "oldies" but I expect that when the Boomer generation dies, so will those shows.
So, that gives us people who want to make a better product that can do more as subject #1. And fads/fashions falling out after time as #2.
I've beat the parallel lines between music played and changes to banjo thoroughly on internet forms. One feeds the other and vice versa. The banjo did "evolve" as time went on and music become more elaborate.
I think at a certain point the second generation of professional banjoists just wanted to be banjoists. They did not want to cork up and be part of minstrelsy. They wanted to play and sing in their own face. And why should they not? SSS was third generation, though he and many of his customers/friends did cork up. I believe he stopped as soon as he could get away with it.
Stewart must have had people wondering into his shop asking to learn "minstrel banjo" often. Or for "having some fun with it". I can imagine him and other young celebrities having many laughs over these people just like anyone in any industry does about their customers. He went so far as to publish a book to make fun of them.
I love how he explains using soap to wash up.
He should have included "Lather, rinse and repeat."
I suspect that Stewart was aware that "elevating" was a double-entendre (multiple-entendre?). Don't all lesser instruments aspire to the Symphony Orchestra? This is nothing short of the American way, of course. Poor kid raises himself to fame and fortune. Sadly for Adolphe Sax, his child never made it to the orchestra...
Stewart had no idea that all instruments would have their 15min of fame on radio, TV, CD and YouTube. He couldn't foresee Zamfir or Kenny G. He simply wanted people to buy his stuff. Like most entrepreneurs and fathers, he wanted to be the best for his family and probably saw "elevation" as some kind of catchphrase or vision or mission statement that invoked invention, forward motion, evolution...all to sell banjos and have fun doing it.
Chris, there was a cut and paste error in my reply today that I missed. What I posted made no sense so I deleted it. Please ignore it if you already read it. To sum up what I meant to say: When posting views or ideas or ways of thinking that are not your actual beliefs I think you will stand a better chance of being understood if you say at the outset that this is what you are doing.
Chris Cioffi said:
Thanks Joel and Jody.
Thanks, Jody, great suggestion and appreciated....I try to be brief and to the point (not obvious from most of my length of posting sometimes), so in my minimalist mind, I usually don't put in many disclaimers, etc....so now I see that I should, at least sometimes.
The other part of this is that I know what I believe in the "Main Outline", but as things get more and more "minutia-ized" and the subpoints multiply in from the Main Outline (whatever the subject), sometimes, I end up playing devil's advocate with myself and really don't know what I think on some of those....so there was a lot of that in my posts...genuinely seeking others' thoughts and perspectives, which I think I did say....at least after the fact when things got a bit hot here.
Really, I should not be posting recently. We've been trying to move, re-model 2 houses for that end, and etc....me for almost a year and a half now, burning the candle at 3 ends. I realized too late I was too fatigued and not thinking very clearly when I entered this thread, but I realized it too late....so some of my posts weren't really very clear to start with.
Joel, that was a great post on "elevating". Thanks. I really got a lot out of that. Of course the music's developing towards classical and other forms as well as just by itself the actual design and construction of an instrument have nothing to do with race....guess I fell into the scholarly norm in thinking about that as you explained....but it did seem appropriate to me to ask about it at this point in this thread.
Thanks again for the great post that comes from long hours of your study.
Merry Christmas everyone.....